When you receive a federal grant, you are receiving taxpayer dollars with the expectation you will successfully implement a public-serving project. Such projects can range from publishing scientific research results to creating apprenticeship opportunities for underrepresented populations to providing foreign aid and democratic development.
To ensure you (i.e., the award recipient) are using the funds ethically and efficiently, the federal government establishes grant reporting requirements. After you submit these reports, the grant-making agency then has staff who carefully review them to maintain transparency and to prevent fraud and abuse.
‘Results for the American Taxpayer’
In recent years, there has been an increasing government emphasis on ensuring high-quality results, in addition to monitoring for the efficient and effective use of grant funds.
Consider this language from the President’s Management Agenda Results-Oriented Accountability for Grants:
“This goal will: rebalance compliance efforts with a focus on results for the American taxpayer; standardize grant reporting data and improve data collection in ways that will increase efficiency, promote evaluation, reduce reporting burden, and benefit the American taxpayer; measure progress and share lessons learned and best practices to inform future efforts, and support innovation to achieve results” – Performance.gov
It is recommended, then, that grant applicants keep all of these objectives in mind when designing projects and reporting on their outcomes to the federal government.
How to Prepare for Reporting
To prepare for these programmatic and financial reporting requirements, carefully review the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to see what the grant-making agency requires of you in the future, particularly the reporting deliverables and schedule. In addition to building the team and organizational infrastructure to implement and manage the award, you will need to build processes and staff to collect and prepare these reports.
Before submitting your grant application, ask yourself:
- Do we have a process to collect the required data and results?
- Do we have the staff to analyze the data and results?
- Do we have the staff to complete and submit the reports on-time?
If you don’t have those processes and staff in place already, it is incumbent on you as the award recipient to make sure you have them by the time the grant begins—reporting is required, and failure to submit reports on-time can impact your chances of receiving future awards.
Of course, the grant-making agency wants you to succeed, so start a conversation with your agency point of contact for assistance, training, and support to make sure you are set up for success.